It’s Patio Season!

In Minnesota, there are 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and patio season. As soon as the snow melts (May 5th this year), we clamber outside with alacrity to make the most of those few months where you don’t need to keep a snow shovel in your trunk.

Ingredients for an ideal patio happy hour:

  1. Delicious eats and a tantalizing drink list
  2. Not being subject to clouds of exhaust permeating the atmosphere or saturating the libations.
  3. Some like it hot. Others have skin fair as the Minnesota snow. Sun and shade dual options foster a comfortable environment for all.
  4. Big tables because hey, we like each other (and want to sit with each other).
  5. Good people enjoying the company of one another

As a team, we enjoy a fun patio happy hour as much as anyone. Situated in the NE neighborhoods of Minneapolis, the toughest question we face on this issue is which awesome spot should we visit this time? While you really can’t go wrong (especially if you incorporate our 5 ideal ingredients), here are a few REAL recommendations:

Bauhaus: Rain or shine, this covered gem is conveniently located across the parking lot from our office. Play some bags, drink some beer, eat from a food truck, and take in a scenic freight train or two.

Eli’s: Tucked back off Hennepin, Eli’s is a favorite lunch spot due to its varied menu and sunny tables. Always check the specials list.

Able: Can you be a seedhouse and a brewery and have an amazing patio all at the same time? Only if you are Able.

Stanley’s: One of the spots most capable of seating our growing team outside, Stanley’s offers a variety of eats and drinks that keeps everyone happy.

Masu: A popular spot on fielding Fridays when the office crew is smaller, Masu’s fresh Japanese fare is the perfect food to feast on when the forecast is fiery.

Fair State: Tucked behind the brewery, the Fair State patio is a hidden respite from Central Avenue that provides the sun and shade we’re always seeking. We dare you to try the Roselle and not become a sour convert.

Tattersall: Words cannot describe the cocktails available at Tattersall. They have a nice patio outside for the warmer weather, but we almost prefer the cocktail room inside with its cozy club chairs. It’s worth it to visit, rain or shine!

Spotlight On: The RENO Team

With the mission of renovating our current methodologies and internal practices to reach their fullest potential, our Renovation Team (affectionately termed the RENO911 team) is always on the lookout for additional tools that can complement our in-context focus.

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RENO Team (L-R): Emma Connolly, Quinten McGruder, Tyler McGruder, Adam Kneeland

One of these exciting new add-ons is eye tracking. Our moderators remain the best in the business with regard to eliciting honest and insightful feedback from respondents. However, for shopper insights in particular, subconscious thoughts and behaviors are harder to get at because shoppers rarely think about how they shop; consumers may say they have not seen certain signage, but their eyes may tell a different story. Now, with the eye tracking capabilities made possible through a partnership with Tobii, we are able to obtain a tangible read on exactly what respondents see and focus in on.

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While this technology is not new to the industry, the trade-offs presented by available devices have, thus far, not been a worthy additional to our methodology arsenal. Only now, with the right technology and right partner, has eye tracking shown to have the capability to be an appropriate add-on to our solutions. Paired with our in-store methodologies, eye tracking can be a great addition, especially to studies focusing on packaging and signage. This way of seeing through the eyes of the respondents gives definitive backing to insights and a measurable method of analysis. Like Project Director Quinten McGruder says, “It’s a natural extension of our existing methods.”

In addition to researching and developing our eye tracking offering, RENO911 has also looked into other new and innovative additions to the field, such as text analytics, and has been devoting time to building relationships with retailers across the country. REAL Insight was born when founder Jim Cahill walked into a Cub Foods and asked to conduct research there. “We’ve been building on Jim’s legacy of maintaining good store relationships,” says Emma Connolly, Associate Project Director. These ongoing connections are imperative to the in-context research in which we excel and, therefore, we prioritize their maintenance and growth. RENO911 keeps our skills, practices, and methods sharp and current. Where will they lead us next?

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Small Business

In a land where bigger is generally equated to better, we at REAL Insight dare to take an alternate perspective: Innovative is better. Flexible is better. Faster is better. Affordable is better. Personable is better. These qualities are all part of the value-added offerings our small business brings to the table.

With 12 full time employees and an extended team of about 20, we embrace our small business status, but also challenge the title—we are small in size, but not in capability or impact. We are undaunted by large projects or tight timelines. Customization isn’t a dirty word; we prefer it. We do not shy away from hard-to-find consumers or needed nuance. We enjoy keeping current on innovation, both human and technological, and have a repertoire of tools, ideas, and methodologies that stand up to any task. We are ready to pivot as projects develop and inevitable obstacles crop up. We also enjoy being able to fit the whole team at a restaurant table to celebrate birthdays, sunny days, or happy hour 🙂

This week we celebrate all those businesses that are fast and flexible, innovative and imaginative, creative and capable, and also have small employee numbers. Happy Small Business Week!

Spring into Action

Spring in Minneapolis is quite the spectacle. Sounds such as birds chirping and creeks babbling return to the daily soundtrack; Target Field begins its thaw from the cold as opening day approaches; a collective sigh is heard as winter jackets are packed back in closets and snow boots are tucked away in favor of galoshes or, for some brave souls, sandals. And with spring, comes the green.

Here at REAL Insight, we have a particular preference for the color green and find spring to be a wonderful time to celebrate those warm feelings. With Earth Day on its way, our internal green team teamed up with our volunteer team to celebrate the planet and show our support for the continued “greening” of our community and world.

Earth Day is a great reason to think both globally and locally: what can be done in our neighborhoods, and how can we fit in with the bigger picture? To address both of these perspectives, we decided on supporting both a global initiative and a local need:

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One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization focused on planting trees throughout the world. For every dollar donated, they plant a tree in one of their six global locations, selected based on the needs for reforestation in those regions. We decided to start a collection for One Tree Planted in the office and offered to have our volunteer/green team match all donations, which resulted in REAL Insight planting 100 trees throughout the world!

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Locally, we decided to make a donation to support Arbor Day efforts and plant trees here in our fair city through giving to People for Parks, a local non-profit with the goal of enhancing and promoting Minneapolis parks. Giving back to the city that gives us so much is an important goal of out volunteer team and green team.

April showers bring May flowers, and nurture trees throughout our backyards and the world. Happy Earth Day and Happy Arbor Day from all of us!

-Mary Dolan O’Brien, Project Coordinator

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Richard Simmons and the Power of Empathy

Historically, the name Richard Simmons did little more for me than conjure up Day-Glo tinted memories of spandex and pep. While familiar with him and his fitness empire, he was not a person on which I spent much time dwelling in the past decade.

That was until recently, when I joined thousands of others in being utterly captivated by “Missing Richard Simmons,” a podcast detailing the abrupt departure of Mr. Simmons from the public eye, and one man’s quest to find out why.

15simmons1-master768In the past, when Richard Simmons would come up in conversation or the news, my two most prominent thoughts were:

  1. His success must be tied to the fanfare surrounding him and his unique way of carrying himself.
  2. Who would choose him as a fitness guide when there are other, more credible-seeming guides out there and available?

What I failed to see is something that the podcast has illustrated for all those listening: his success (which is much larger than I was aware of) lies in his authentic empathy for people. He saw people through non-judgmental and caring eyes and wanted to hear their stories and help them.

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It actually reminded me a lot of my dad, the founder of our company, and what made him so effective at the 75,000+ intercept interviews he did over his career. He, like Richard, had a way of immediately instilling a feeling of worth and importance in anyone with whom he interacted. This authentic and believable foundation encouraged and inspired conversations, and continues to this day. Respect and empathy are rooted in the DNA of REAL Insight, and grow with us as we continue to expand and innovate.

Brands can be authentically empathetic too, but it requires brand teams to be open, vulnerable, and receptive to interactions in environments that may seem uncomfortable or places that may not be major cities. It’s not enough to just do research. Teams need to truly see and listen to people, which is harder to do when those people are different from themselves.  This is where true empathy needs to be formed, and this is where we can help.

We have developed a solution that makes this process much easier: a REAL Intuition Journey. This is a multi-touchpoint process that will help your team transition from hearing to listening and from looking to seeing. Empathy has power; let us help you harness it.

-Luke Cahill

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Large Companies Driving Disruptive Innovation?

Ford Motor Company recently announced a 5-year plan to develop and begin mass-producing fully autonomous cars.   As someone who has a 25 mile commute each way to work, enjoys a happy hour every now and then, and has 4 future teenage “drivers,” it’s easy to immediately think about the benefits of self-driving cars.  Ride-sharing through the likes of Uber has already started to transform the automobile transportation industry, and technology players like Google are trying to enter the autonomous vehicle market.

The auto industry, especially American manufacturers, developed a reputation for being traditionalist and stuck in their ways.  That tendency obviously caught up with them a decade ago when fuel efficiency and quality concerns caused them to lose significant shares, and they have been working hard to regain and maintain their edge ever since.  It’s easy to see how new autonomous technology—the lessening of our love-affair with cars, seeing them more as a Point A to Point B commodity, etc.—would be seen as a threat to future profits, but instead of doubling up on lobbyist spending,  Ford has decided to learn from past mistakes and embrace the shifting landscape by evolving to stay both relevant and profitable.

Their commitment to mass produce vehicles for ride-sharing purpose is fascinating because it not only shows a commitment to implementing innovative technology, but also to an innovative transportation system.  By investing in developing both fronts, Ford acknowledges how autonomous cars will likely lead to fewer cars being needed (and therefore being sold), but still affirms that transportation will continue to be needed, and that there are other ways to profit within the transportation industry.  Remember when IBM used to make computers?  Now, they are heavy investors in this next phase of innovation; by doubling their Silicon Valley presence and continued investments, they are acquiring the right pieces to be on the front-end of an evolving auto industry.

The food industry is another place where large companies are evolving to stay relevant and embracing disruptive innovation.  General Mills’ 301 team has gotten a fair amount of press for its evolution into an investment company that—rather than being an internal innovation company—is finding small innovative start-ups, giving them much needed capital, and sharing its expertise in distribution, production, research, etc. to help them leverage the passion and innovation that got them started and help them succeed in the areas where they struggle most.

The key ingredient to both of these examples if for key decision makers at large companies having the …let’s call it Fordsight…to see what their industry is evolving in a disruptive way, and then having the humility to accept the change and make whatever adjustments are needed to stay relevant and profitable.

-Luke Cahill, Managing Principal